The grand Royal York Hotel hosted the 3rd Annual Freedom Walk on September 15, 2012, organized by [free-them] in support of Walk With Me. An organization that works closely with various police services and has been able to provide unique services and support to many victims of human trafficking. In contrast to the beautiful, iconic venue, the causes behind human trafficking are dark and violent. Researching/writing about trafficking can leave you emotionally drained and feeling hopeless. The experiences of the victims and survivors haunt you because they are such a grave injustice against humanity. I applaud [free-them] for hosting an event about trafficking that, despite the issue, was uplifting, inspiring and full of love. The line-up of speakers covered all aspects of trafficking yet ended with positive messages.
I have written about Timea Nagy, the founder of Walk With Me, before. To hear her speak was a privilege. As her voice started to crack, I felt a chill come over me. “I don’t get emotional anymore,” she said. We were told the very brief version of the gruesome reality she lived as a trafficked person in Toronto. The details don’t need to be stated, they can be imagined. A little girl sat across from me with her mom and sister. Both girls held signs that said, “I’m NOT For Sale”. Another chill. I asked the mother if I could take a photo because I knew it would be a powerful image. And it is.
We sang the national anthem, and the words “true north strong and free” stood out for me that day. I am a proud Canadian but I want our country to continue to be a free nation. So long as human trafficking is occurring within our borders, that part of our anthem is not reflective of the lived experience of many women in Canada. I was lost in thought and before I knew it, everyone was heading out of the room and onto the streets. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to introduce myself to Timea. The warmth with which she embraces any conversation with you is truly humbling. She is the embodiment of courage and strength.
At one point during the 5K through downtown Toronto, I was walking alongside a little girl who was chanting “Kids Are Not For Sale” with all the conviction she could muster. Louder than the adults, fired up and holding her sign high up in the air, this girl gave me another chill. I felt my passion for women’s rights re-ignite at that moment. I snapped pictures as we walked because I am proud to have been part of this incredible event.
It’s not easy to convince people to wake up early on a Saturday morning after a long week of work. But I hope you can see why it was absolutely worth it. Shae, the founder of [free-them], is energetic and bursting with an enthusiasm that is contagious. That feeling permeated the event, and I am so glad that instead of sleeping in that morning, I walked amongst changemakers.